Offering a reduced-fat dip flavored with herbs and spices may help children learn to like vegetables they previously rejected or disliked, according to a new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Researchers at Penn State University also found that serving such dips with previously disliked vegetables significantly increased their consumption.
Preschool children ages 3 to 5 years old participated in two experiments to measure willingness to taste, accept and consume vegetables.
In the first experiment, children were given three vegetables — one they liked, one they disliked and one they had previously refused — along with a reduced-fat plain or herb dip (similar to a ranch or pizza dip).
The researchers found offering dips increased the likelihood of the vegetable being liked and decreased the odds of it being refused. Further, the children significantly preferred the dip with added herbs and spices to the plain dip.
In the second experiment, children were given vegetables they described as “yucky” or “just okay” (celery and squash) with or without dips. Feeding vegetables with an herb dip increased the amount of celery eaten by 62 percent and more than doubled the consumption of squash.
The researchers concluded that offering vegetables with reduced-fat dips containing familiar herb and spice flavors may help children learn to like vegetables and increase their acceptance and consumption, including vegetables previously rejected or disliked. Seasoning with flavor may be a strategy to increase palatability of vegetables and lay the foundation for long-term healthy eating habits.
Source: Savage J., Peterson J., Marini M., Bordi P. and Birch L. Preschool children like and eat more vegetables when the vegetable is combined with a plain or herb reduced-fat dip — Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2013 May 22. [Epub ahead of print]